​Puppy Wellness Guidelines

Congratulations — you have a new puppy! 
… So, now what?

In the first few months with your new puppy, it is very important that s/he see a veterinarian every few weeks for the proper vaccinations. Your dog’s immune system relies on receiving these vaccinations at specific times so that your new bestie can stay healthy. Here’s how the vaccination protocol works:

Core Vaccines


  • What? Rabies raises significant public health concerns, so this vaccination is required by state law to protect both your dog and you.
  • When? At or around 14-16 weeks of age, your puppy will get his/her first rabies vaccine, which will be valid for 1 year. The next dose of the rabies vaccine should be administered within 1 year after the initial dose, regardless of the animal’s age at the time of the initial dose. The rabies vaccine should then be administered every 3 years, unless state, provincial, and/or local requirements stipulate otherwise.


  • What? Commonly referred to as “canine distemper”, this vaccination protects against 4 severe viruses—distemper, adenovirus-2, parvo, parainfluenza—that could be fatal if left unvaccinated.
  • When? Puppies should be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks (ex., at 6, 10, and 14 weeks, or 8, 12, and 16 weeks). Puppies who complete the initial vaccination series by 16 weeks of age or younger should receive a single booster vaccination no later than 1 year after completion of the initial series and then be re-vaccinated every 3 years after that.

Other Vaccines

Other vaccinations are recommended for your dog’s health, based on what activities s/he will be doing.

Canine Bordetella

  • What? This vaccine provides coverage for one of the bacteria responsible for causing canine infectious tracheobronchitis—commonly known as “kennel cough.” Many grooming and boarding facilities require your dog to have this vaccination. This vaccine does not guarantee that your puppy will not still develop kennel cough, but it can help lessen the severity of the disease.
  • When? The vaccine can be given when your puppy is around 8-12 weeks of age and should be repeated annually. The vaccine can be administered in an injectable or oral form. After the first round, this vaccine needs to be administered annually.


  • What? Leptospirosis is a deadly, zoonotic disease. Bacteria is spread through the urine of infected animals (often rats and mice), and the disease is most commonly found in sedentary water.
  • When? The first dose should be administered at 12 weeks, then a second dose follows 2-4 weeks later. Two doses are required, 2-4 weeks apart. A single initial dose will not immunize your puppy! After the first round and booster, this vaccine needs to be administered annually.

Canine Influenza

  • What? This vaccine may be required if your dog goes to boarding or grooming facilities, but is rarely administered in your puppy’s first 16 weeks.
  • When? The first dose should be administered when the need presents itself, but typically no earlier than 16 weeks. A second dose follows 2-4 weeks later. A single initial dose will not immunize your puppy! After the first round and booster, this vaccine needs to be administered annually.

*Although extremely rare, reactions to vaccinations are possible. It can be normal for your dog to be a bit sleepy after the vaccine or for you to see a bit of swelling around the injection site. If your dog experiences vomiting, swelling of the face, or sudden collapse, please seek immediate medical attention.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Fleas and ticks are a big nuisance—to your dog AND to you! They carry diseases, can infect you and your home, and cause great discomfort to your pet. Thankfully, there are many preventive options available, including topical applications, oral applications, and impregnated collars. Ask our vets for more details.

Heartworm Prevention


  • What? Dogs are susceptible to these foot-long worms that live in the heart and/or lungs. The disease is often life-threatening, so prevention is the best plan of attack. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection—this can be done during a routine preventive care visit.
  • When? Puppies under 7 months can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after s/he has been infected). Your dog should still be tested 6-7 months after your initial visit and then tested yearly after that to ensure s/he is heartworm-free.


Annual testing is always necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm preventive medication year-round, to ensure that the prevention is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just 1 dose of a monthly medication—or even give it later—it can leave your dog unprotected. And even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill or rub off a topical medication. In short, heartworm preventives are highly effective but not fail-proof. A test easily determines your dog’s heartworm status.

*Dogs over 7 months and previously not on a heartworm medication must be tested prior to starting heartworm preventive medication.

Dangerous Items

Keep your puppy—and any other pet—away from:

  • Avocados, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and raw bread dough made with yeast

  • Onions, garlic, and chives 

  • Milk, alcohol, coffee, and caffeine

  • Food sweetened with xylitol (such as gum, baked goods, and candy)

  • Lilies

  • Electrical wires, pesticides, antifreeze, lead

  • Household medicine cabinet contents — do not ever give your puppy human ibuprofen or acetaminophen (found in Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, etc.)